Six Ways to Calm Job Interview Jitters

By Larry Buhl, Special to CareerBuilder

Interviews can strike fear in the hearts of the most seasoned job seekers. If you don't have a lot of experience interviewing, it's not unusual to feel mild jitters or even outright terror at the thought of sitting down with a potential employer. But you don't have to let emotions turn that important hiring hurdle into a horror show. Experts offer several tips for preventing anxiety from torpedoing your chances of landing the job.

1. Put yourself in the interviewer's shoes.

Interviewers are not trying to make your life miserable. Really. In fact, they are hoping you are "the one." They need to fill the job with the best person, and if they don't succeed their jobs could be on the line. Just keeping that in perspective can help calm your jitters.

2. Prepare, prepare, prepare.

"Preparation is 90 percent of success in job interviews," says Dr. Linda Smith-Gaston, career advisor at Los Angeles Trade Technical College. Smith-Gaston encourages role-playing with a friend before the interview and anticipating the questions you'll likely hear. Typical interview questions include:

  • Why are you the best person for the job?

  • Tell me about yourself.

  • What are your best/worst traits?

  • Why do you want to work here?

  • What did you learn in school (or at an internship) that prepares you for this job?

"You should always know what the company actually does before the interview," Smith-Gaston adds. Finding out could be as simple as a two-minute Internet search.

3. Plan your day around the interview.

Running late will stress you out. Avoid rushing by mapping out the directions to the interview site and allowing more time than you think you'll need. Budget for traffic jams, parking snafus, bad weather, road closures and just getting lost. Make sure you budget enough time off from your current job or school, so you don't feel like you have to run out of the interview if it runs longer than you anticipated. Hiring managers, like doctors, can sometimes keep you waiting.

4. De-stress before the interview.

After you check in with the receptionist -- being pleasant and professional when you do this -- try some relaxation techniques, recommends Smith-Gaston. This could be as simple as closing your eyes or doing a few deep breathing exercises. But beware: If your idea of relaxation is kick-boxing or a yoga routine, do those at home. "You want to be memorable to the employer, but not for making a scene in the waiting room," Smith-Gaston says. And don't even think about taking a drink or using substances to calm down; that should be obvious, but for some it isn't.

5. Listen, think, speak.

Whether your interview is in person or over the phone, it is important to listen to what the interviewer has to say, and then think before responding, according to Paul Bailo, author of "The Official Phone Interview Handbook." "Take a few seconds to understand the question, and then prepare a quality answer before simply blurting out something less intelligent," he says. "Focusing on the interviewer will take your mind off your own jitters and actually help calm you down."

6. Prepare your own questions.

You'll know the interview is almost over when the interviewer asks whether you have any questions about the job or the company. When you hear this, don't say "no," and bolt for the door. Use this opportunity to solidify the good impression you've made. "Well-thought-out questions show you're really interested in the company and the job," Bailo says. Also, if you have sent in your résumé, have a copy in front of you (and make sure it's the same version). Always wait until the interviewer has finished asking about you and your background before launching into your own questions.

The day after the interview, send a thank you note to the interviewer. "Use the thank-you note to add something new, like an award or a small honor you received," Smith-Gaston says.

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Larry Buhl researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues for Follow @CareerBuilder on Twitter.

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